I am an employee: What are my rights under COVID-19?

 

If I fall ill, will my employer pay my salary?

Yes, as a general rule, your employer must continue to pay your salary under Swiss law.

However, the applicable rules depend on whether your employer contracted or not a daily allowance insurance in the event of earning incapacity and loss of earnings. Pay then special attention to your employment contract, as the existence of such insurance is generally mentioned in it.

Should your employer have contracted a daily allowance insurance, your right to salary will be determined by the insurance general conditions. Usually, the employee is entitled to at least 80% of the salary, over a period of 720 out of 900 days.

Should your employer not have contracted a daily allowance insurance, you will be entitled to your full salary for a period determined according to the duration of the employment relationship (art. 324a CO). Subject to longer periods fixed by agreement, standard employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements, the employer pays three weeks' salary during the first year and, thereafter, the salary for a longer period fixed fairly, taking account of the duration of working relations and the specific circumstances.

Different scales apply, according to the place of work. The most commonly used scale is the following (Bern scale):

Duration of employment relationship                   Right to salary

During the 1st year                                                          3 weeks

During the 2nd year                                                        1 month

During the 3rd and 4th year                                          2 months

From the 5th year to the end of the 9th year         3 months

From the 10th year to the end of the 14th year     4 months

and so on…

The employer may in theory require the worker to present a doctor’s certificate from the first day’s absence. Many contracts however provide for such a measure only from the third or fourth day. Given the current pandemic, the Federal council asked employers to be understanding and flexible regarding the presentation of medical certificates.

Can my employer oblige me to go to the office if I want to work from home ?

As long as the authorities do not prohibit going to work, this refusal would be considered unlawful. Your employer could withhold your salary.  Should you continue to refuse to go to work, your employer would have the right to terminate your employment contract with immediate effect. In that case, your employer may even be entitled to compensation (for example, a quarter of the monthly salary may be withheld).

However, your employer must take care of your health and hence provide you with a safe work environment. You could then refuse to go to work if the company does not comply with the official sanitary measures, for instance if you have to work in a room with more than four other people.

Can I refuse to go to work in order to take care of my sick children ?

The employer must give leave to a parent for the time needed to care for a sick child up to a maximum of three days per case of illness. A medical certificate will have to be presented upon request. Under the circumstances, an employee may also be released from the obligation to work for a longer period if medically justified. The employer would then have to pay the salary for a certain period, depending on the duration of the employment relationship and the particular circumstances (see question no 1). Other agreements can be reached, but they must be laid down in writing for the employee in particular (e.g. in his/her employment contract) or in the standard employment contract or collective employment agreement.

Parents should however avoid prolonged absences and organize children attendance differently.

Can I refuse to go to work if I have to take care of my children due to school closures?

According to Swiss law, if a worker is prevented from working through no fault of his or her own because of the fulfilment of a legal obligation, the employer must pay him or her the time-limited salary in accordance with Art. 324a CO (see question no 1). Parents should however avoid prolonged absences and organize children attendance differently.

19/03/20 - Rachel Salem, attorney-at-law at Ochsner & Associés

 

 

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This website aims to provide general information regarding Swiss law and should not be regarded as a legal opinion. For more specific advice, do not hesitate to contact us.